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Is it “double-minded” to use more than one Bible translation?

The primary reason some Christians use more than one Bible translation is because no translation is perfect. Some translations are consistently better than others, but occasionally, a poor translation does a better job in a specific area. Consulting more than one translation can provide further clarity to a reading, and sometimes highlight a theological struggle between branches of the church, because Bible translation is a bit of a war waged on many fronts.

First and foremost has been the issue of manuscript collection. Setting aside the Old Testament for a moment, Jesus quoted the Septuagint, which inspires Christian confidence. But the New Testament did not come into the hands of early Christians in the form of a clean-cut canon. Rather, scholars today are still collecting fragments of Scripture from various epistles and gospels, and comparing them with the earliest samples such that the most historically accurate versions of these books can be placed in future updated Bibles.

So, the first battle involves sorting through Scripture fragments, comparing the language and noting the earliest sources. Scholars need to be sure that earlier datings gain priority over later specimens, as early sources should, in theory, be purer examples of the texts.

But what to do when you have nearly the same number of manuscripts on both sides of a translation debate, all from the same time period? This is where research and even bias enter into manuscript compilation. And again, in theory, more recent translations should include the most up-to-date manuscripts, which is a reason why new Bible translations enter the market every so often, and why they will continue to do so. But even after Scripture fragments have been collected and compiled into full texts of each New Testament book, it is not as if biblical languages translate uniquely into other tongues. Syntax, verb usage, idioms, and many other aspects of Koine Greek don’t translate word for word into English. 

Certain Bible translations are more literal, such as the American Standard Version or Rotherham, and some are more idiomatic and poetic, like the King James Version and New International Version, which is still a Christian favorite, even though the manuscript upon which it is founded, the Textus Receptus, was carelessly compiled, containing many outright additions to Scripture.

And even if one could produce a translation founded on the very best, updated manuscript findings—one that translated both literally and understandably into all languages—there is still the issue of theological bias which may include a significant rewiring of certain Scriptures in order to meet the translator’s understanding. 

Is it double-minded to use more than one Bible translation? No, it is good scholarship. Knowing that translation is a difficult, nuanced, and sometimes flawed practice, using multiple translations can give the reader a wider lens through which to interpret Scripture. 

A terrific read on this topic would be Bruce Metzger’s “The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration.”